RISING RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS
Imagine returning to a time when we fear common infections and risk our lives from minor surgery. Unless we improve on our short-term solutions, we will
that will add value to the antibiotic treatment arsenal. “Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence,” says Dr Suzanne Hill, director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO.
To counter this threat, WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative set up the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership. On September 4, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK with the Wellcome Trust, pledged more than ¤56m (R895m) for this work.
“Research for TB is seriously underfunded, with only two new antibiotics for treatment of drug-resistant TB having reached the market in over 70 years,” Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Global TB Programme says. “If we are to end TB, more than $800m per year is urgently needed to fund research for new anti-TB medicines.”
The WHO says antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant.
These bacteria may infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
“The world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Behaviour changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing, practising safe sex, and good food hygiene.”
Seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional before taking antibiotics, he advises. Rising dangerously Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world, WHO reports, adding that new resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, while a growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, TB, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public. Without urgent action, we are heading for a postantibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill. How to control Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics as well as poor infection prevention and control. Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.
According to WHO, to prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional, never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them, always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics and never share or use leftover antibiotics.
Individuals can also prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safe sex and keeping vaccinations up to date.
The theme of this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 1319) is Seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional before taking antibiotics – and the WHO says that antibiotics are a precious resource, so it is important to get the right advice before taking them.
“This not only ensures you and your family get the best treatment, responsible use of antibiotics will also help reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance.”